by Jim Austin MA, ACE, www.jimagesdigital.weebly.com
Learning to see with High Dynamic Range (HDR) vision means understanding and mastering its tools. The image needs to shine through. The subject matter makes the picture, not the technique. We must not let rigid technique determine the art.
While many HDR photographers use 5 exposures, a wide-angle lens, and process in Photomatix, these techniques will change over time. To survive as a worthwhile contribution to photography, HRD must have both content and composition. Image outlasts style.
Photography’s gift lies in its rendering of detail. Consider the range of light in the image of the termite mound. Impossible with film, an extended tonal range shows crisp detail, without flash.
Beyond technique, lasting HDR work is the symbolic subject matter, perceived by the viewer. Memorable HDR images are like symphonic melodies, complex creations with interesting ideas about content, lighting, character, and composition. Their strength does not rest on how many exposures were taken, nor the manner the picture is processed.
When HDR was introduced to photographers, they were initially shocked because biases got in the way and influenced how it was seen. It was common to view an HDR photograph relative to a landscape printed from film. Over-insistence on truth, and habitual notions of beauty echoed the mindset of mid 19th-century viewers who were trained to see nature photographs as they had seen scenic paintings for centuries.
Realists, and impressionists working in HDR are better served by considering the humanity of their subject matter and its symbolism, rather than getting caught in a literal translation of the image. We should avoid getting stuck in notions of truth, but free to be expressive and feel free to be expressive and accept flexible interpretations.